Point: Starting the college conversation sooner relieves stress for senior

Ellen Gantenbein, Sports Editor

Senior year of high school rolled around a lot faster than I expected. Throughout my first three years of highschool I thought I was ahead of the game, I came to realize I was horribly wrong. I knew that I wanted to go to college after high school, but that was the extent of what I had thought about. It was only about 3 months ago that I narrowed down my list of schools and scholarships I wanted to apply to. That was the easy part. Then there’s the whole application process, which will take up every spare minute of your already jam packed senior year.

No one wants additional stress during the school year, which is why it’s so important to keep plans for after high school in mind from Freshman year. It may seem like that’s too early, but having time to work through things is incredibly beneficial. College and Career Coordinator Christina Rates noted, “The truth is it’s never too early to start thinking about it. I see students more stressed out when they wait until their Senior year to figure out what they want to do.” Sophomore Muna Ali jumped at the chance to start preparing, “I started when I was starting high school… because I wanted to plan out everything I need to do during high school…”

It’s important for students to use the early years of high school to explore interests and develop good habits. This means touring colleges, taking rigorous classes that relate to their interests, getting involved in extracurricular activities, preparing for tests and developing healthy time management and study habits. Doing these things will help students explore interests and narrow down options for after high school. Senior Carly Eckstrom commented, “Definitely touring lots of different colleges really helped me figure out what I wanted in a school and what I wanted from college. I just figured out a lot of things about myself and where I’ll fit in later in life.”

Students should take the opportunities to get involved in things at school and in their communities that reflect their interests and can also build up their resumes. Often times students are unaware of their options, they are things that students will need to take initiative to go and find. These are the things that are going to have long lasting benefits, because they are directly related to student interests. Eckstrom stated “I know that my stats and my history really show who I actually am much better than if I had a Freshman year where I had kind of taken it easy and gotten some bad grades…. I just really feel like starting high school and taking it seriously I am in a better place than if I had not taken school seriously as an underclassmen.”

Although talking about after high school plans can be intimidating keeping it in mind earlier will provide an “end goal” and eliminate stress later. Rates added, “It seems like procrastination is a big problem but I think where procrastination comes from is anxiety, which is students getting overwhelmed by the whole process. So a lot of what I do is just help the students navigate that and create a really simple to do list, so you know just step by step what do you need to take care of and taking care of it… The further ahead of that you can be the better.”

Eckstrom also touched on the benefits of being more prepared, “I think in the long run it’s definitely less stressful to think about it earlier because then you have more confidence in the decisions that you make because you’ve had more time to think them over.”

Often students don’t realize the added pressure that comes along with becoming an upperclassmen. Suddenly students have a lot more to balance. They might have jobs, bigger roles in their extracurricular activities and much more challenging classes. As an underclassmen students often have more free time, which is time that won’t be available later, and can be spent working on things that will be important when it comes senior year.

Not only does starting the conversation earlier better prepare students, it also gives students a motivation to do well during high school. Rates added, “For students who are struggling in high school it creates a connection for them as an end goal. So it’s not like ‘I’m just getting through high school to get through high school’ it’s ‘I want to get through high school because this is the next step to getting to this thing that I want.’”

Even if thinking about plans after high school can be a student’s worst nightmare, I still strongly believe the earlier the better. Students will have more time to plan, which reduces stress, as well as explore their options. Rates ended with, “It’s finding out what’s gonna be the best fit for you and where you’re going to be most successful and getting you to the end goal of having an occupation or career that you are happy to go to every day.”